The Guardian July 19, 2000


Bread & Justice

The following are extracts from the address by Dr Fidel Castro Ruz, 
President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of the 
Republic of Cuba, at the opening session of the Group of 77 South Summit 
Conference held in Havana last April.

Never before did mankind have such formidable scientific and technologic 
potential, such extraordinary capacity to produce riches and well-being but 
never before were disparity and inequity so profound in the world.

Globalisation is an objective reality underlining the fact that we are all 
passengers on the same vessel, that is, this planet where we all live. But, 
passengers on this vessel are travelling in very different conditions.

Trifling minorities are travelling in luxurious cabins furnished with 
Internet, cell phones and access to global communication networks. They 
enjoy a nutritional, abundant and balanced diet as well as clean water 
supplies. They have access to sophisticated medical care and to culture.

Overwhelming and hurting majorities are travelling in conditions that 
resemble the terrible slave trade from Africa to America in our colonial 
past. That is, 85 percent of the passengers on this ship are crowded 
together in its dirty hold suffering hunger, diseases and helplessness.

Obviously, this vessel is carrying too much injustice to remain afloat and 
it pursues such an irrational and senseless route that it cannot call on a 
safe port. This vessel seems destined to clash with an iceberg. If that 
happened, we would all sink with it.

The Heads of State and Government meeting here, who represent the 
overwhelming and hurting majorities, have not only the right but the 
obligation to take the helm and correct that catastrophic route. It is our 
duty to take our rightful place at the helm and facilitate that all 
passengers can travel in conditions of solidarity, equity and justice.

For two decades, the Third World has been repeatedly listening to only one 
simplistic discourse while one single policy has prevailed.

We have been told that deregulated markets, maximum privatisation and the 
state's withdrawal from the economic activity were the infallible 
principles conducive to economic and social development.

Along this line the developed countries, particularly the United States of 
America, the big transnationals benefiting from such policies and the 
International Monetary Fund, have designed in the last two decades the 
world economic order most hostile to our countries' progress and the least 
sustainable in terms of the preservation of society and the environment.

Two decades of so-called neoliberal structural adjustment have left behind 
economic failure and social disaster.

Under the neoliberal policies, the world economy experienced a global 
growth between 1975 and 1998 which hardly amounted to half of that attained 
between 1945 and 1975 with Keynesian market deregulation policies and the 
states' active participation in the economy.

After World War II, Latin America had no debt but today we owe almost one 
trillion dollars. This is the highest per capita debt in the world. There 
are more poor, unemployed and hungry people in Latin America now than at 
any other hard time in its history.

Crises, instability, turmoil and uncertainty have been the most common 
words used in the last two years to describe the world economic order.

The Third World is forced to immobilise financial resources and grow 
indebted to keep hard currency reserves in the hope that they can be used 
to resist the attack of speculators.

Over 20 percent of the capital revenues obtained in the last few years were 
immobilised as reserves but they were not enough to resist such attacks as 
proven by the recent financial crisis in Southeast Asia.

Presently, US$727 billion from the world Central Banks' reserves are in the 
United States. This leads to the paradox that with their reserves the poor 
countries are offering cheap long-term financing to the wealthiest and most 
powerful country in the world while such reserves could be better invested 
in economic and social development.

Remove the IMF

If Cuba has successfully carried out education, health care, culture, 
science, sports and other programs, which nobody in the world would 
question, despite four decades of economic blockade, and revalued its 
currency seven times in the last five years in relation to the US dollar, 
it has been thanks to its privileged position as a non-member of the 
International Monetary Fund.

A financial system that keeps forcibly immobilised such enormous resources, 
badly needed by the countries to protect themselves from the instability 
caused by that very system that makes the poor finance the wealthy, should 
be removed.

It is high time for the Third World to strongly demand the removal of an 
institution that neither provides stability to the world economy nor works 
to deliver preventive funds to the debtors to avoid their liquidity crises; 
it rather protects and rescues the creditors.

It is of crucial importance for the Third World to work for the removal of 
that sinister institution, and the philosophy it sustains, to replace it 
with an international finances regulating body that would operate on 
democratic bases and where no one has a veto right.

A viable way to do this would be by establishing not a 0.1 percent tax on 
speculative financial transactions as Mr Tobin brilliantly proposed, but 
rather a minimum one percent which would permit the creation of a large 
indispensable fund C in excess of US$1 trillion every year to promote a 
real, sustainable and comprehensible development in the Third World.

External debt

Today, the external debt is one of the greatest obstacles to development 
and a bomb ready to blow up the foundations of the world economy at any 
time during an economic crisis.

The resources needed for a solution that goes to the root of this problem 
are not large when compared to the wealth and the expenses of the creditor 
countries.

Every year US$800 billion are used to finance weapons and troops, even 
after the cold war is over, while no less than $400 billion go into 
narcotics and one additional billion into commercial publicity which is as 
alienating as narcotics; this is to mention just three examples.

As we have said before, sincerely and realistically speaking the Third 
World countries external debt is unpayable and uncollectable.

In the hands of the rich countries, world trade is already an instrument of 
domination, which under neoliberal globalisation will become an 
increasingly useful element to perpetuate and sharpen inequalities as well 
as a theatre for strong disputes among developed countries for control over 
the present and future markets.

The neoliberal discourse recommends commercial liberalisation as the best 
and only formula for efficiency and development.

Accordingly, all nations should remove protection instruments from their 
domestic markets while the difference in development between countries, no 
matter how big, would not justify separation from the only way offered 
without any possible alternative.

While neoliberalism keeps repeating its discourse on the opportunities 
created by trade openings, the underdeveloped countries' participation in 
the world exports was lower in 1998 than in 1953, that is, 45 years ago.

Unilateral trade liberalisation

Trade liberalisation has essentially consisted in the unilateral removal of 
protection instruments by the South. Meanwhile, the developed nations have 
failed to do the same to allow the Third World exports to enter their 
markets.

The wealthy nations have fostered liberalisation in strategic sectors 
associated to advanced technology where they enjoy enormous advantages that 
the deregulated markets tend to augment.

These are the classic cases of services, information technology, 
biotechnology and telecommunications.

On the other hand, agriculture and textiles, two particularly significant 
sectors for our countries, have not even been able to remove the 
restrictions agreed upon during the Uruguay Round because they are not of 
interest to developed countries.

In the OECD, the club of the wealthiest, the average tariff applied to 
manufactured exports from underdeveloped countries is four times higher 
than that applied to the club member countries.

A real wall of non-tariff barriers is thus raised that leaves out the South 
countries.

In Seattle there was a revolt against neoliberalism. Its most recent 
precedent had been the refusal to accept the imposition of a Multilateral 
Agreement on Investments. This shows that the aggressive market 
fundamentalism, which has caused great damages to our countries, has found 
a strong and deserved world rejection.

The new medications, the best seeds and, in general, the best technologies 
have become commodities whose prices only the rich countries can afford.

The murky social results of this neoliberal race to catastrophe are in 
sight. In over 100 countries the per capita income is lower than 15 years 
ago. At the moment, 1.6 billion people are faring worse than at the 
beginning of the 1980s.

Over 820 million people are undernourished and 790 of them live in the 
Third World. It is estimated that 507 million people living in the South 
today will not live to see their 40th birthday.

The world economic order works for 20 percent of the population but it 
leaves out, demeans and degrades the remaining 80 percent.

We cannot simply accept to enter the next century as the backward, poor and 
exploited rearguard; the victim of racism and xenophobia prevented from 
accessing to knowledge and suffering the alienation of our cultures due to 
the foreign consumer-oriented message globalised by the media.

As for the Group of 77, this is not the time for begging from the developed 
countries or for submission, defeatism or internecine divisions. This is 
the time to rescue back our fighting spirit, our unity and cohesion in 
defending our demands.

Fifty years ago we were promised that one day there would no longer be a 
gap between developed and underdeveloped countries. We were promised bread 
and justice; but today we have less and less bread and more injustice.

The world can be globalised under the rule of neoliberalism but it is 
impossible to rule over billions of people who are hungry for bread and 
justice.

The pictures of mothers and children under the scourge of draughts and 
other catastrophes in whole regions of Africa remind us of the 
concentration camps in nazi Germany; they bring back to us memories of 
stacks of corpses or of moribund men, women and children.

Another Nuremberg is required to put to trial the economic order imposed on 
us, the same that is killing of hunger and preventable or curable diseases 
more men, women and children every three years than all those killed by 
World War II in six years.

We should discuss here what is to be done about that.

In Cuba we usually say: "Homeland or Death!" At this Summit of the Third 
World countries we would have to say: "We either unite and establish close 
cooperation, or we die!"

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